Haley Byrd/Independent Journal Review
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised committee markups on a tax bill will take place after lawmakers return from their August recess, but he curbed recent chatter that a tax reform push will be broadly bipartisan.
“I don't think this is going to be like 1986 where you had a bipartisan effort to scrub the code,” McConnell said during a press conference on Tuesday. “We will need to use reconciliation.”
Reconciliation is a budgetary procedure that requires 51 Senate votes, or a simple majority, versus 60, as on other pieces of legislation or executive branch confirmations. Of course, Republicans weren't able to pass an Obamacare repeal under that procedural trick.
That hasn't stopped Democrats from trying to wedge their way into the process and exert more influence than they had during the health care push.
“We have made it very clear that it would be a big mistake to just go back to the health care model,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Tuesday morning after exiting a meeting with Republicans to discuss tax reform.
“You have a lot to work with here if you really want to reject 'my way or the highway' politics and pass a bipartisan bill,” he said.
Senate Democrats released their demands for a tax reform plan in a letter to Republicans Tuesday morning, echoing Wyden's request for a regular order procedure, calling for no tax cuts on the top one percent of earners and ruling out tax cuts financed by budget deficits.
That would gut the broad-brushed outline of priorities Republicans have laid out so far.
“I certainly think we should have a taste for bipartisanship,“ Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a Finance Committee member, told Independent Journal Review. ”I’m not sure that that letter reflected a desire for bipartisanship.”
“You're basically starting the conversation off at a hard no,” Scott said. He added that Democrats should be willing to look at the necessity of short-term deficits in order to spur economic growth.
Leaving some wiggle room for Republicans, several Senate Democrats didn't sign the letter, including a couple from red states, such as North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia's Joe Manchin.
On the other side of the Capitol, House Republicans will have to pass a budget before moving to tax reform. But the budget under consideration does not meet enough standards of the House Freedom Caucus, whose votes are necessary for a budget to pass.
The challenges call into question why Republicans still estimate that they'll finish overhauling the tax code by the end of the year.
“Working on tax reform took five years," Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told reporters Tuesday morning, recalling his time in Congress during the successful and bipartisan tax reform push in 1986.
“The idea that we could somehow wrap this up in a couple of months is probably the triumph of man’s hope over experience,” he said.